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Hammid (Alexander) and Deren (Maya)Private Life of a Cat (1947)

something has gone horribly wrong 8-p
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Alexander Hammid's intimate study of a female cat and the birth and maturation of her five kittens.


This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives

Producer: Hammid (Alexander) and Deren (Maya)
Sponsor: N/A
Audio/Visual: Si, B&W
Keywords: Animals: Cats; Animals: Behavior; Psychology

Creative Commons license: Public Domain


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Reviews
Average Rating: 4.81 out of 5 stars4.81 out of 5 stars4.81 out of 5 stars4.81 out of 5 stars4.81 out of 5 stars

Reviewer: kristinmak - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - January 26, 2014
Subject: Excellent
Shows birth in progress, mother cat teaching kittens how to be cats. Tom participates in grooming, play, is curious about his brood. Darling film.

Reviewer: The_Emperor_Of_Television - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - October 21, 2013
Subject: Yes
Great film, a true masterpiece.

Reviewer: Dmitri Gheorgheni - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - December 23, 2012
Subject: A Rowring Good Time
I would compare this to the work of Joe Camp, without the need for training, because - let's face it - dogs are great actors when trained, but cats are natural stars. The animal's-eye view is striking. You don't need sound if you know cats. You know exactly what she's saying. I particularly enjoyed the sly humour. Thanks to other reviewers for the background on the cinematographer - I'm now going on a search for the elusive Mr Hammid.

Reviewer: WINSTON SMITH3353 - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - November 5, 2012
Subject: Great Hammid Cinematography
Great documentary following the stages of the life of a cat. I recommend this download for anyone interested in cats or fine cinematography. It is a fine companion the book on cats by cultural anthropologist/sociobioligist Desmond Morris (The Naked Ape), "Catwatching and Cat Lore," from 1986. What Hammid beautifully portrays on film, Morris explains in print. Great short film, 5 stars. Thank you Internet Archive.

Love the cinematography by Czechoslovakian-born filmmaker Alexandr Hackenschmied, aka Alexander Hammid, aka Hackensmid. The tone and texture, as usual in his work, is as smooth as 35mm ASA 12 portrait film.

After seeing his work as cinematographer on the 1941 documentary film "The Forgotten Village" (Screenplay by John Steinbeck, narration by Burgess Meridith) and entranced by his style, I very recently began private research on this man and found Mr. Hackenschmied comes to us under more names than an Internet sockpuppet (Sasha, buddy, where ya been all my life?). In "The Forgotten Village," he is credited as Alexander Hackensmid. In others, such as his early work in Czechoslovakia, he goes under an earlier name, Alexandr Hackenschmied. According to IMDB, his birth name was Alexander Siegfried Georg Smahel.

He was known as an avant-garde filmmaker and most of his American work was under the name of Alexander Hammid. This guy is great. I'm looking everywhere for his work. So far, I've found very little on the net for a person with such a large body of work. Wikipedia (written and maintained by his daughter, Julia) and IMDB are mournfully lacking in personal biographical details for such a interesting, fine artist.

I mean, c'mon, Julia. Where did he live after his arrival in '38? The Village? Connecticut? Did he arrive as a refugee (That was the year Hitler invaded the Sudenten)? If so, how did he get out? Did he have residuals coming in, or was he broke? Did he have help from an organization? Who did he hang with in Czechoslovakia? In America? Was there a circle of artists he preferred? Who were his lovers and wives? How did he get on The Forgotten Village team, did Steinbeck or Burgess suggest him? Did he hang with them later? What was his personal politics/philosophy?

Reviewer: Marysz - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - January 8, 2012
Subject: Feline Domesticity
An engrossing film about two cats, who have kittens in a New York City apartment. I stand corrected by reviewer Julia H., who pointed out that Deren directed and Hammid did the filming and editing. The film is dated 1947 here, but according to a Hammid website it was actually made in 1945. In any case, it is a beautiful film.

Reviewer: splue - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - June 6, 2011
Subject: my kitteh sez
5meows

Reviewer: USABG58 - 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars - May 28, 2011
Subject: This is why I'm feline-centric
Great film! Cat owner since 1962, (52 years old). Had about 50 cats and loved them all. Lost track of vet bills after about $35K. Dogs are OK, but I love cats--fascinated by their gymnastics and behavior and interactions with each other. Many happy and sad memories. Have had some very close friendships with particular cats. Each has his/her own personality. Don't understand hatred of cat "independence" some people seem to be bothered by. They're not slavish like some dogs...OK...get over it. I'm a straight, married male and do feel a bit ashamed I prefer cats over dogs. Dogs are more macho. Although, a Siberian tiger can take any canine on the planet. Please support charities that care for feral cats and spay and nueter and release them. Always help out feral cats and adopt as many cats as you can handle. And always stick up for cats. Lot of cat-haters out there and cruel youngsters.

Reviewer: Albert Schlef - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - May 24, 2011
Subject: Nice.
I downloaded this planning to save watching this for some other time, but once I started I was glued to the screen!

The wisdom (or "instincts") of animals is impressive.

Reviewer: Beforeyourtime - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - May 15, 2011
Subject: A must have
Watch it for the gift that pets are to us, watch it for its theme of love and responsibility, watch it for the unquestionable skill of the film makers. A short masterpiece for anyone of any age.

Reviewer: longfade - 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars - June 17, 2010
Subject: This is great.
I can't think of anything more inherently elegant than cats.

Reviewer: Benson&Hedges - 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars - April 2, 2010
Subject: cat people must see!
We are given a detailed example of two cats that bring forth a litter of kittens, highly detailed shots despite lack of colour. No purring sounds of kittens to melt your heart but regardless the film still makes you say..."AWWW...!"

all in all good show.

Reviewer: HollywoodBob - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - November 3, 2009
Subject: Cat Family
Been there, done that. I've had cats as pets for almost 40 years now (I'm 56). Kinda creepy knowing that this cat family is long dead, kinda cool knowing that this particular cat family will live forever in cinematic history on the internet for people to enjoy.

Reviewer: fishy5 - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - June 4, 2008
Subject: Another cat-related short you might like
If you enjoy this, you also might enjoy "Three Little Kittens" (1938) also from the Prelinger Archives.

Reviewer: doowopbob - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - December 27, 2007
Subject: Licking Lesson #1
Who Am I To Argue?.....I've Loved Pussies All My Life!....

Reviewer: Burnt Rich - 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars - June 3, 2007
Subject: www.spcaonline.com
Beautiful cinematography and overall flow for 22 minutes of cat ogling. In 2007, Silence and black and white are so refreshing and reverent. Same reason I love all those old Samurai flicks from the 50s and 60s. Such an antithesis to the definitive, hollow, neon glare of the modern
media juggernaut. I am a foster parent of abandoned and feral cats in Okanogan County , Washington. These cats are lucky they have such a safe, controlled environment to do their thing in. I was happy to see how Papa cat acted throughout the process. I never get to see Daddy w/ his kittens or his reactions in the work we do. What a gentleman! I have 4 beautiful kittens and a feral mama cat in my bedroom as I type. I trapped and rescued @ week 2 from an abandoned barn where I maintain 1 of my feral cat food/water stations--now we are starting week 5. As much fun as a barrel of monkeys!! Most of these kittens would not make it past the 6 month mark in the wild before meeting a tragic end, statiscally. SPAY and NEUTER!!!!! Your local Abandoned Cat Team and Shelters ALWAYS NEEDS $$$$ and volunteers to facilitate the rescue, feeding, vet costs, and the numerous others $$ and time involved in maintaining an organization that aids these forgotten and neglected animals. It is ironic that in the end male and female unite again and come back full-circle in the film....in reality, mama cat WILL be in heat again 4-6 weeks after pregnancy if not spayed. Does she really want or need to do this all over again that soon? Especially in the wild--more work than her or the kittens usually have proper nutrition for! Multiply that by the amount the kittens and offspring will have and VOILA!--way too m any cats! Support you LOCAL HUMANE TRAP, NEUTER, RELEASE programs in your area!!!! If you love cats--VOLUNTEER LOCALLY!!!! www.spcaonline.com for more links to helping out cats in your local area.

Reviewer: Julia H - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - November 17, 2006
Subject: correction to previous review by Marysz from July 14, 2004
Reviewer Marysz wrote:

"It could be that Deren did a lot of the filming and Hammid edited the final footage."

I can assure you that it is the other way around. Maya had the ideas and Sasha did the camera (and editing) work. Take a look at his later films and you will see the consistent, strong cinematography for which he became so well known.

Reviewer: Strandlund - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - August 1, 2006
Subject: What a treat!!
Beautiful silent film of love, love, love.
Send this to friends. Cat lovers must see this fine film! An EPIC...even if it is kitty porn.

Ok, so am I the first one on here to use this bad joke?

Reviewer: Love thy neighbour - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - March 30, 2006
Subject: ATTENTION
If cat lovers do not watch this, then i may resort to violence!!

Reviewer: GE_Pretzel - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - March 29, 2006
Subject: Essential viewing for all cat fanciers
The Private Life of a Cat features superb footage of two domestic cats welcoming a litter of kittens into the world. The endearing mannerisms that the cats exhibit as they frolic about in their home make for wonderful entertainment. Don't hesitate to view this film, it's well worth your time!

Reviewer: ERD - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - October 15, 2005
Subject: Stunning
An absolute masterpiece. A must for any cat lover.

Reviewer: Ja30fitz - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - July 24, 2005
Subject: Great Film
There isn't too much to say, except that this is a great movie. It's incredible how they were able to follow the cats around like that...

Reviewer: Michael Loebenstein - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - July 20, 2005
Subject: A rare film
Indeed, the fluidity of the camera work has a lot in common with Deren's early films. Mind you, it was Hammid (her then husband) who taught Maya Deren cinematography. He, a czech-austrian film artist who fled Europe from fascism has then had a career of working in the movies; additionally he was the lone author, cameraman and editor of a beautiful experimental film AIMLESS WALK. In the US he shot Maya's MESHES... and AT LAND before they divorced.
There's several other films (educational and promotional) in the collection where Hammid is credited as a cameraman, editor or director, and all are worth watching. There's an excellent book (in german, though the long interview with Hammid is in english!) on him, TRIBUTE TO SASHA, published by the Austrian film critic and historian Michael Omasta (ISBN 3-901644-08-3). When preparing the book and a Hammid show in Austria we drew heavily on the Prelinger Collection to see some of these films for the very first time.

Reviewer: tracey pooh - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - July 11, 2005
Subject: supercute
and quite interesting to see much of the
life of new kittens.
i'm impressed by how instictive the behaviour of the cats seem to be (even if some of the segments are have potential for a bit of being staged).

overall, a great watch!

Reviewer: hart noecker - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - February 26, 2005
Subject: Are you retarded?
Ok, guess who I'm making fun of, 'Um I likes little kittens cuz they is bunches of snuggle kisses. I write this letter right now and my pants is choked full of poo. Me kittens is love me.

Any guesses? No?

Reviewer: agent - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - December 30, 2004
Subject: How many news sources are there?
It is Official, Hollywood changes it's name to HollWeird.
http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/12/30/0213251

Reviewer: RadioBilly - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - December 25, 2004
Subject: Very Touching
I really liked this film. It reminds me of the kitty situation up here in New York State where many barns house families of cats making more kittens. No doubt the same scenario played out in this film is duplicated here in the semi-wild.

In fact my latest addition to my kitty collection came from a barn. He was rescued, neutered, given his shots and landed with me. This film depicted a much kinder situation as compared to barns that are never heated.

I really enjoyed this film and am glad it has been added to the Prelinger Collection. I can't believe it is only instinct that drives the maternal caring the mother provides to her kittens in this film or otherwise. I really think Love makes the world go round.

Reviewer: sonnet29 - 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars - December 15, 2004
Subject: An Interesting Experiment
I too was drawn to this film by Maya Deren's name on the credits. When I was a film major in the seventies, I saw Deren's famous "experimental" film "Meshes of the Afternoon" several times in class, and found the strange music and elaborate imagery haunting. (I was also haunted by Maya Deren's apperance in the film. Her beauty was extraordinary.)

It's interesting to think of this film as also experimental, although in a much more modest and true-to-everyday-life way. It seeks to be true to its title, and penetrates farther into the real world of the housecat than any film I've ever seen-- and I should know, I live with no less than FIVE of the furry little bastards!

The total absense of any soundtrack seems to serve this end, since cats do not make music, and, as far as we know, do not comprehend music.

The photography is wonderful, but does the film really show us anything that we can't see from paying close attention to our own pets? I'm not sure. Worth a look.

Reviewer: sonnet29 - 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars - December 15, 2004
Subject: An Interesting Experiment
I too was drawn to this film by Maya Deren's name on the credits. When I was a film major in the seventies, I saw Deren's famous "experimental" film "Meshes of the Afternoon" several times in class, and found the strange music and elaborate imagery haunting. (I was also haunted by Maya Deren's apperance in the film. Her beauty was extraordinary.)

It's interesting to think of this film as also experimental, although in a much more modest and true-to-everyday-life way. It seeks to be true to its title, and penetrates farther into the real world of the housecat than any film I've ever seen-- and I should know, I live with no less than FIVE of the furry little bastards!

The total absense of any soundtrack seems to serve this end, since cats do not make music, and, as far as we know, do not comprehend music.

The photography is wonderful, but does the film really show us anything that we can't see from paying close attention to our own pets? I'm not sure. Worth a look.

Reviewer: KenW - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - August 25, 2004
Subject: Extraordinary
The cats seem to function independent of humans--you almost get the feeling it is THEIR apartment; and probably that's how cats feel about where they live. "Hey, I let him stay here because he feeds us." In any case, this film was a total surprise: you become part of the cats' world and absorb into their new family. Okay, the b&w is a bit grainy, the lightning isn't studio quality. And the point is?... We see life being made here, creation fulfilling itself. THAT is the point. This is a treasurable film.

Reviewer: Spuzz - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - March 17, 2004
Subject: IMPOSSIBLY cute.
Him and Her, two cats, decide to be Mama and Papa cat, after Mama scouts out her birthing location, out pop out 5 kittens, they all look ugly at first, but hey who doesnt? Soon, they're 5 of the most intolerably cute kittens you've ever seen, soon they're jumping, playing, and learning from their mom and dad about the ways of the cat! Shot perfectly, mixing POV's with shots of the cats, this is a MUST SEE on this site!

Reviewer: trafalgar - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - March 9, 2004
Subject: Excellent
Some of the most fascinating cat footage you'll ever see. The cinematography is excellent, but the filmmakers stay out of the way and let the cats tell the story. Very highly recommended.

Reviewer: organon - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - August 9, 2003
Subject: Cats are undeniably cool
This silent film is beautifully made. It contains no humans.If you like cats, you'll love it. Especially interesting to see the tom's role in the cat family.

Shotlist

RECORDS FEMALE CAT & HER 5 KITTENS AS MOTHER CAT APPROACHES LABOR, KITTENS ARE BORN & OBTAIN MILK & MOTHER CAT THEN CARES FOR THEM IN LEARNING & GROWING PROCESS, IN WHICH TOM CAT OCCASIONALLY PARTICIPATES.


DOMESTIC ANIMALS CATS KITTENS PREGNANCY BIRTH MILK LACTATION MAMMALS
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